Last Week in New York Folking City

Shovels & Rope

While there are very few bad weeks for music in NYC, last week held multiple shows that collectively represent some of the very best in the indie folk world today…

Spirit Family Reunion and Hurray for the Riff Raff at Sycamore – On Tuesday, Bronx-native and New Orleans resident Alynda Lee Segarra (a.k.a Hurray for the Riff Raff) opened up for Brooklyn’s Spirit Family Reunion in a packed out show in the tiny Sycamore Bar & Flower Shop in Ditmas Park. Segarra, who recently toured with The Family and plays at Mercury Lounge tonight, stunned the seated crowd with a mostly solo set, but also featured Spirit’s Mat Davidson for a number of songs. Afterwards, all seats were cleared to make room for more people and foot stomping. The temperature rose to sweat lodge levels as Spirit Family Reunion took the stage at their own neighborhood bar, in advance of a U.K. tour that starts later this week (and newly announced opening tour with Trampled by Turtles later this fall). The band sang plenty of songs of their album No Separation, and closed with a fun cowboy-style number featuring drummer Peter Pezzimenti on vocals.

Christopher Paul Stelling – Photo by Clarence K. Photography

Shovels & Rope and Christopher Paul Stelling at Mercury Lounge – Regrettably, I missed the opening set of Brooklyn-based fast-picking singer-songwriter Christopher Paul Stelling who opened up at the Mercury Lounge on Tuesday. However, that didn’t stop a very gracious Stelling (along with Shovels & Rope’s publicist) from getting my friend and me a late add on the list and escorted past an intimidating bouncer that turned away boat loads of folks for this sold out show.  Earlier this year, Stelling released Songs of Praise & Scorn (Amazon MP3 & Spotify), a gorgeous and critically acclaimed album of gospel folk that was recorded in an apartment above a funeral home in Louisville. After my friend and I made it in, we slid into the lively crowd which, if my fashion sensibilities are correct, was loaded with southerners. Shovels & Rope’s Michael Trent and Cary Ann Hearst, who recently released a fantastic album called O Be Joyful (see our review here), had an incredible stage presence both musically and in between songs, as Hearst peppered in Dolly Parton-esque comments in a sweet southern accent. The duo’s energy was a force, filling the room just fine.

Flearoy, Zach Williams and The Bellow and Jus Post Bellum at 92YTribeca – On Friday, Mason Jar Music hosted a night of NYC-based folk and Americana acts at the classy 92YTribeca. The night opened with our friends Geoffrey Wilson and Hannah Jensen from Jus Post Bellum playing an impressive and polished set of minimalist folk songs, followed by a set from passionate southern-born alt-country rockers Zach Williams and The Bellow. Williams and his talented band of southern transplants have built a sizeable following in the city through shows at Rockwood (and songs like this). The night closed with the jazzy pop Americana sounds of Flearoy. The band released Wake The Town (Amazon MP3 & Spotify) last year, which includes poppy, yet musically impressive renditions of great old songs like “Hang It On The Wall” and original tunes like “Hey Brother.”